Nissan – The Tribe of Yehudah
The Vilna Gaon writes that the twelve months of the year are parallel to the twelve shevatim (tribes). There are many different opinions in the writings of our Rabbis concerning which months are parallel to which of the 12 tribes. According to some opinions, the month of Nissan represents the tribe of Yehudah.
Yehudah: The Expression of Hodaah (Giving Thanks)
When Yehudah was born, his mother Leah expressed thanks for him, saying, “This time, I thank Hashem.” The name Yehudah is rooted in the word hodaah, thanks, because Leah felt thankful to Hashem over his birth.
As our Sages say, being that Yaakov Avinu had four wives, and since our matriarchs knew through prophecy that 12 sons would come from Yaakov Avinu, the natural order of events would have been that 3 children would come from each mother [4×3=12]. Therefore, Leah thought she would not beget more than the 3 children to Yaakov. When she saw that she was given a fourth child, she realized that Hashem was giving her even more than her allotted portion of children. Thus, she had special reason to thank Hashem.
The Gemara says that Leah was the first person in history to give hodaah (thanks) to Hashem, when she gave hodaah to Hashem over the birth of Yehudah. However, there is also a deeper understanding to this, as we will see.
‘Hodaah’: Through Denying Idol Worship
The possuk in the Megillah says that Mordechai was called “ish yehudi” [which simply means that he descended from Yehudah]. The Gemara expounds upon this that “Whoever denies idol worship, is called a ‘Yehudi’ (a Jew).” Mordechai fought the trend of idol worship in his times, thus he earned the title of ‘ish Yehudi’. Thus, a denial of heresy, along with acknowledging the existence of Hashem, is what constitutes being called a ‘yehudi’. If so, hodaah is not just about admitting to something. It is about denying the other alternative.
The Torah records that Esav married a woman whose name was “Yehudis”. Chazal explain that her name was called Yehudis because she denied idol worship, and anyone who denies idol worship ‘yehudi’. Esav married her with the agenda of impressing his father Yitzchok, marrying a righteous woman who didn’t serve idols, which would get his father to think that he had given up his ways of idol worship. [In reality, this was all a deception, and later we will explain more about this].
So the root of the term yehudi\hodaah is not just about acknowledging Hashem. It involves a denial of idol worship, and from that, faith and acknowledgment in Hashem can then become revealed.
There is another aspect to Yehudah’s name. In the episode of Yehudah and Tamar, Yehudah admitted to Tamar that she was correct; “She is more righteous than me.” Chazal praise Yehudah in this act for the fact that he “admitted, and he was not ashamed”, and because of this meritorious act, Yehudah merited that the kingdom of David descended from him. This paved the roots of Mashiach and the future redemption.
The Gemara says that our matriarch Rachel is praised for grabbing onto the art of silence, whereas Leah is praised for the grabbing onto the art of gratitude. We see that the hodaah which Leah revealed is expressed as well in the life of her son Yehudah who is associated with that very hodaah, as follows.
The Gemara states that Yosef sanctified the name of Hashem in private, thus he merited that a letter of Hashem be added to his name; there is possuk in the Torah which names Yosef as “Yehoisaf”, so we see that a letter ה was added onto his name; whereas Yehudah sanctified Hashem’s name in public, thus he merits the full name of Hashem in his name.
Thus, there is a deeper aspect to the hodaah in Yehudah’s name. It wasn’t just because Leah felt gratitude to Hashem that she had been given more than her allotted portion of children. It was because hodaah implies admitting to something, which is the trait of nullifying oneself. This is called bittul (nullification).
Even more so, hodaah implies a denial of something else.I In order for a person to give hodaah to Hashem, he has to first deny idol worship.After denying heresy, a person can then have faith in Hashem and be thankful to Him. So in order for a person to be “modeh al ha’emes” – to admit to the truth – he has to first deny the opposite of truth.
The deepest implication of hodaah is when Hashem’s Name is sanctified in public. The Gemara says that because Yehudah sanctified Hashem’s Name in public [through being ‘modeh’ to Tamar], he merited to have Hashem’s Name of havayah revealed in his own name.
Denying Idol Worship: The Incomplete Level of ‘Hodaah’
Let us reflect more about Yehudah and the root concept behind his name, hodaah. As explained above, hodaah implies a denial of the alternative option. In order to ‘admit’ that Hashem exists, one has to deny the existence of other gods, or else his hodaah is not a true hodaah. If I believe in Hashem, that means I must deny that there are other gods.
Thus, all hodaah implies a denial of something else. As the Gemara says, a Jew is only called ‘Yehudi’ if he denies idol worship. If this is the definition, though, such hodaah is not the complete level of hodaah, for it involves an element of denial. Although the denial here is a denial of idol worship, which [denial of idol worship strengthens the admittance to one’s belief in Hashem, the entire such hodaah is based on the fact that idols are denied, which makes the hodaah incomplete. It is hodaah only in the sense of the denial of idol worship [and it is not hodaah for the sake of hodaah]. It is reminiscent of the case in the Gemara of ‘modeh b’miktzas’, one who admits partially to a claim. In the case of modeh b’miktzas, he admits partially to the claim, but he denies the other half that he isn’t admitting to. The entire hodaah is based on a kefirah (denial) of something else. It is thus called modeh b’miktzas.
Thus, the hodaah of Leah over the birth of Yehudah wasn’t the complete level of hodaah. Her hodaah to Hashem was based on the fact that she received more than her allotted portion of children; this came at the expense of the other wives of Yaakov Avinu, who would now bear less children, now that more children were being given to Leah. Since her hodaah came at the expense of others, we can view it as an incomplete kind of hodaah, because her hodaah implied that she is getting her part, while the others are being denied their part.
Thus, any hodaah which results in a deficiency to another, cannot be called complete hodaah. Whenever it comes to interpersonal relationships with others, any hodaah that one expresses will imply that he has received what others didn’t receive, so the hodaah is incomplete. By contrast, the complete level of hodaah is only when my hodaah isn’t causing any deficiency to another; when it isn’t coming at the expense of another.
Thus, when hodaah is a denial of something else, or when it comes at the expense of another, it is the incomplete level of hodaah. Such hodaah is only considered hodaah from the perspective of this “world of falsity” that we live in. [In contrast, true hodaah comes from a higher dimension than this world of falsity].
The Sforno says that Yehudah was not the first person to be named Yehudahh. The wife of Esav, Yehudis, preceded him. Yehudis denied idol worship, thus she is called Yehudis, for anyone who denies idol worship is called “Yehudi”. Why indeed did Esav marry a righteous woman who denies idol worship? He wanted to trick Yitzchok Avinu by making him think that he married a righteous woman. If so, the entire hodaah of his wife Yehudis is a hodaah that was false! It represents a kind of hodaah which isn’t about admitting for the sake of the truth. The true and complete kind of hodaah it is being done for the sake of the truth, and not for any other personal reason.
Thus, hodaah is incomplete when it is based on a denial of the alternative option. Such hodaah involves an element of falsity, and it is represented by the false hodaah of Esav, in his marriage to Yehudis. The hodaah found on This World includes both admitting and denial; the “denial” aspect in it makes it incomplete, for true hodaah does not come from a denial of something else.
Where do we find a revelation of complete hodaah? It is hinted to in the words of the Gemara we brought earlier: Yehudah sanctified the name of Hashem in public, and because of this, he merited that the four-letter Name of Hashem (havayah) be part of his name. This is a kind of hodaah (admittance) which does not come due to any denial of something else.
It was revealed in this world by the giving of the Torah, when Hashem said, “I am Hashem, your G-d.” This was a revelation of the ultimate hodaah, the belief in Hashem’s existence, before there was any mention or possibility of other gods. It was a kind of hodaah that is above this world entirely. Such hodaah is not coming for the purpose of denying other gods; it is coming to state the existence of Hashem. It is not about a denial of falsity. It is a revelation that there is only one option in reality, as opposed to “two” options (belief in Hashem vs. belief in idols and falsity).
The higher revelation of Emunah is when it is revealed there is only “one” option – faith in Hashem – as opposed to ‘choosing’ between the ‘two’ options (faith vs. heresy). When one’s Emunah is crystal clear, there is no possibility of another option. When one’s Emunah is not that clear, though, although he can still have Emunah, his Emunah is being questioned, because he sees ‘another’ option.
This can be compared to Chazal’s critique of Noach for being one who ‘believes, yet doesn’t believe.’ With such Emunah, a person believes in Hashem and admits to His existence, denying any other possibility, but he is still retaining the ‘option’ that there is another ‘possibility’. He still has doubts, and he wonders about other possibilities. As is well-known, doubts are induced by the force of Amalek in the world. When a person has any doubts in his Emunah, Amalek has some hold on him.
When Emunah is clear, there are no doubts, no trace of Amalek. With such Emunah, there is no need in the first place to deny the notion of false gods.
Thus, the hodaah represented by Yehudah is not complete hodaah, for it involved a denial of something else (it came at the expense of the other wives of Yaakov Avinu, who would now have less children, now that Leah is being given more children). Therefore, all hodaah which we recognize in This World is incomplete, for it is within the perspective of the current 6000 year era we are in.
Nissan, Yehudah, and Redemption
In the month of Nissan, we were redeemed, and Chazal state that in the future, we will be redeemed as well, in the month of Nissan. This has its roots in Yehudah, whom the month of Nissan represents. Yosef was the first to go down to Egypt. He represents the exile. Yehudah represents the power to leave the exile. How do we see this? Chazal state that Yehudah established a yeshiva in Goshen, in Egypt, for the duration of the exile. This laid the hidden roots for the redemption from Egypt.
In Nissan, we will be redeemed, and [ throuredemption comes] through the power of Yehudah. However, it will not be through the ‘hodaah’ aspect of Yehudah, which is incomplete. The future redemption will not be about denying other gods so that Hashem can be revealed. Rather, the future redemption will be like Yehudah’s act of sanctifying Hashem’s Name of public – a complete hodaah, a hodaah for the sake of revealing His name of ‘havayah.’ When the name of havayah is revealed in the future, it will be revealed then that Hashem “was, is, and will be”, the only ‘one’ option that exists.
The Sages state that nowadays, the Throne of Hashem is incomplete, due to the presence of Amalek, who does not allow for the complete revelation of Hashem’s Name. In the future, when Amalek will be erased, there will be no more possibility of doubts, and the Emunah in Hashem will be absolute and definite.
This is the depth of “In Nissan, in the future, they [the Jewish nation] will be redeemed.” It will be revealed then the complete level of ‘hodaah’ that is present in Yehudah’s name, the revelation of a reality in which there are no other possibilities, other than the full acknowledgement of Hashem’s existence.
Nissan: The Time To Reach The Complete Level of Emunah
During this time of the year, Nissan, we can reveal the more complete level of Emunah, in which there are no ‘two’ possibilities, and that there is only ‘one’ possibility: our complete Emunah in Hashem.
When we see hester (concealment) in creation, our simple way to deal with this is to choose to have Emunah, rather than focus on the hester. But the deeper method, which reflects the avodah here we have been describing – the power of Yehudah, which is more revealed in the month of Nissan – is to view the hester as being part of our Emunah itself. All hester that we see is somehow a part of our Emunah, and is not in contraction with it.
This is the concept of complete hodaah, of Emunah shelaimah (complete faith), of Yehudah sanctifying the ‘Name of Hashem’ in public…
 The two Imahos, Rachel and Leah; and the two maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah.
 Talmud Bavli: Tractate Berachos: Chapter Nine
 By the confrontation with the wife of Potiphar, when he refrained from sinning with her
 When he admitted publicly that he was wrong and that Tamar was correct
 The name “Yehudahh” contains the four letter name of Havayah
 Bava Metzia 3b